President Miloš Zeman on Monday held his first meeting with Andrej Babiš
since the latter’s ANO party scored a massive success in the Czech
Republic’s general elections. Mr. Zeman said on Sunday that he would task
Mr. Babiš, whom he described as a pragmatist rather than a populist, with
forming a new government. The president said he wished to help in the
creation of a stable government.
After their meeting at Lány Chateau, Mr Babis confirmed he would be officially named to the task next week.
Meanwhile, ANO are set to continue post-election talks with representatives of the other parties that made it into the Chamber of Deputies. After meetings with the Communists, the Mayors and Independents and the Social Democrats on Sunday, Mr. Babiš and his team are due to speak to Freedom and Direct Democracy and the Christian Democrats on Monday.
ANO took almost 30 percent of the vote in the elections but many other parties have expressed reluctance to go into a coalition with them, in part because Mr. Babiš and a senior party colleague are facing criminal charges of EU subsidy abuse.
The government has made public the amount for which it will buy a
controversial pig farm in Lety, South Bohemia, from the company AGPI. The
contract, the outgoing government revealed was worth 450 million crowns
including tax (around 17.5 million euros), and the deal is to be signed in
the coming days; the sale was first approved in August. Some new sites had
speculated the amount as higher.
Completion of the sale will pave the way for the removal of the pig farm from the site of what used to be a concentration camp where Roma suffered and died during World War II. Many were sent on to their deaths at Auschwitz.
Operations at the farm are to cease within a matter of months and a proper memorial should go up at the site in the future.
Eleven people have been charged in connection with subsidy fraud of 50
million crowns in the Stork’s Nest affair, including ANO leader Andrej
Babiš and deputy leader Jaroslav Faltýnek. The spokeswoman for Prague’s
state prosecutor’s office Štěpánka Zenklová said that the office
would have to halt proceedings against the two politicians as they both won
new mandates at the weekend. Previously, the lower house had stripped them
of immunity to face criminal charges.
Mr Babiš is suspected of having orchestrated a plan for his Stork’s Nest farm to acquire a 50 million crown EU subsidy which should technically have been out of his reach. He has been charged with subsidy fraud and harming the EU’s financial interests.
The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka congratulated all of the
parties which won mandates in the Czech election at the weekend but said
that parties and movements that won had not been those that had worked to
build freedom in the country over the last 25 years.
In his view, parties which won were not traditionally left or right on the political spectrum and made clear the view that their gain was, for example, a political defeat for the European Union. He warned that anger, hatred and squabbling was continuing after the election as it had before, calling that “a truly bad sign”.
The leader of the anti-migrant and anti-Islam Freedom and Direct Democracy
Party, Tomio Okamura, has told the Czech daily Právo that he was not
ruling out cooperation with election-winners ANO and that his party wanted
to be a part of the ruling coalition.
In the same interview he made clear the fact the future prime minister faced criminal charges was a problem with the potential to heavily damage the future government as well as planned legislation which he said took up to a year to prepare.
The head of the Christian Democrats Pavel Bělobrádek will stick with his pre-election promise and offer up his post at the party’s national conference this week, MP Jiří Mihola told journalists on Monday, adding it would not automatically mean the party leader’s resignation. The Christian Democrats fared worse than expected in the election at the weekend, losing four mandates and earning just 5.8 percent of the vote. Mr Bělobrádek had promised that if the result was worse than the last election, he would consider resigning. In the last election, the party received 6.88 percent. The party chairman responded by saying that he would wait for the meeting on Friday and stressed that Jiří Mihola was not his spokesman.
Betting agencies in the Czech Republic took a record number of bets on the
legislative election at the weekend worth more than 100 million crowns. The
number eclipsed that of bets on the presidential election in 2013, the
Czech News Agency learned.
Ahead of the election, ANO were heavily slated to win while the number of parties to make it into the lower house – nine – was higher than expected. Bettors also tried their luck on the Czech Pirate party and Tomio Okamura’s Freedom and Direct Democracy party, who made it into the lower house for the first time.
The head of TOP 09 Miroslav Kalousek has told the daily Právo that the ANO
party, which won the election in the Czech Republic at the weekend, has
four potential partners in the lower house which he said ANO could use to
push through its policies, in his view the Freedom and Direct Democracy
party, the Communists, Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats.
Kalousek said he had received a message from ANO leader Babiš about a potential meeting but said it would be absurd for him to travel to Průhonice, outside Prague, where Babiš, the likely next prime minister, is meeting with leaders of all the parties in the lower house.
Kalousek and Babiš have been long-time political foes who have done little to hide their personal animosity.
TOP 09 was part of the government after elections in 2010, but has seen a continuing loss of voters since. At the weekend, TOP 09 finished with only seven seats, barely over the five percent threshold.
Mr Kalousek is to announce his future plans as leader on Tuesday. TOP 09 is holding its party convention next month.
Jan Farský, election leader for the Mayors and Independents which won six
seats in the new parliament at the weekend, will head his grouping’s
deputies’ group, while deputy leaders will be Vít Rakušan and Věra
Kovářová, the party revealed on Monday.
At their first meeting since the election, the group of six agreed not to change its earlier position not to enter into government with landslide election winners ANO, led by Andrej Babiš.
While not willing to enter into a coalition with ANO, Mr Farský said there were important issues such as digitalization and education, which needed to be debated across the political spectrum, where he said a broad political consensus was needed.